Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Traffic woes don’t stop north Macon wholesale club shopping center

Macon-Bibb P&Z wants further design review on Riverside Centre project; OKs new Johnny’s Pizza, downtown bowling lanes, Chick-fil-A redesign
P&Z staff will review the design plan for the new Riverside Centre 408,000-square-foot retail hub with wholesale warehouse anchor tenant adjacent to The Shoppes at River Crossing.

Traffic congestion will be the trade-off for 408,000 square feet of new stores the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved Monday that will be built next to the Shoppes at River Crossing off Bass and New Forsyth roads.

Nearby neighbor Stuart Hammock opposes the location even if the wholesale store to anchor the new Riverside Centre turns out to be a Costco. He currently travels up Interstate 75 to shop at the wholesale warehouse.

“I’m a card-toting Costco member. I love me some Costco,” Hammock said.

Developer Frank Bishop dodged Hammock’s assumption and rumors that Costco would fill the 153,000-square-foot anchor building and fuel center on the site.

“I hear a lot of things. I don’t have any signed documents from anybody,” Bishop responded to Hammock, who was the only person to speak against the project at Monday’s meeting. P&Z also included in the applicant’s file an email that was opposed to the project.

Stuart Hammock’s photos show how cars regularly block New Forsyth Road during dismissal from the Academy for Classical Education.

Hammock presented photos of the lines of traffic that clog New Forsyth and Bass roads during drop-off and dismissal at the Academy for Classical Education, which does not provide bus transportation.

He argued that conditions will only get worse when the center opens years before the Georgia Department of Transportation’s planned widening of Bass Road to address the clogged intersections.

Bishop noted that the tenants they are in negotiations with will “generate more interest from not only the folks in Macon, but surrounding areas that will want to come and do their shopping.”

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Valerie Wynn spoke in favor of the project saying: “Progress and growth is what we want. The problem we have is congestion, congestion, congestion.”

P&Z commissioners were mainly concerned with the lack of pedestrian pathways within the Riverside Centre that is expected to employ more than 1,000 people at 16 retail locations.

Developer Frank Brown, left, shows the Planning & Zoning Commission the five planned entrances to the planned Riverside Centre shopping complex while Jim Rollins looks on.

Five entrances are planned, and developers are hoping GDOT and the county will favor a roundabout at Bass and New Forsyth roads. The public comment period for that project expires Dec. 17.

A similar plan presented in 2005 that was never built “looked more like the Shoppes at River Crossing with more vehicular and pedestrian movement,” said Butch Sementilli, P&Z’s Assistant Zoning Director.

The Commission approved the Conditional Use of the 48 acres, but asked that the developers work with staff on the layout of the property and landscaping design.

“Just make it pretty,” P&Z Chair Jeane Easom said.

Commissioner Wynn agreed.

“We do want to know about the way it’s going to look, the trees, the greenspace. This is a nice area of town,” said the District 1 Commissioner who represents that side of the county. “We want it to look nice and fit into the area.”

Downtown bowling, new Johnny’s Pizza, Chick-fil-A drive-thru

Downtown Macon is poised to get a six-lane duckpin bowling alley and bar in a long vacant building at 476 Second St.. The new business is between Ocmulgee Brew Pub and Barefoot Tavern, which will adjoin the new entertainment venue with access between the two businesses.

Duckpin bowling uses smaller pins and bowling balls than the traditional 10-pin game.

During the pre-meeting, Easom noted the growing list of things to do in downtown.

“We’re pretty lucky. We’ve got axe-throwing and rock climbing and now bowling downtown. I think that’s pretty neat,” Easom said.

Commissioner Josh Rogers, who heads NewTown Macon’s efforts to revitalize downtown, agreed.

“I think it’s going to  be fun to take the kids,” Rogers said.

David Thompson of MacTown Properties secured the Conditional Use permit for the building, which was approved for exterior renovations and a new storefront in September.

The upper and lower floors of the building are not part of the current plan but are expected to be repurposed in the future.

Local Johnny’s New York Style Pizza owner Greg Fussell secured a Conditional Use permit for a new pizzeria location at 1448 Bass Road, which is in the new development being built adjacent to Providence Boulevard.

Fussell already owns Johnny’s Pizza locations on Zebulon Road in northwest Macon, and on Ga 96 in Bonaire. His application did not note any plans to close either of those. He said this newest location will be open seven days a week and have outdoor dining.

P&Z specified the closed canopy for the outside seating must be of the same type materials as the main restaurant. Staff will review the plans since the Commission did not like the look of a rendering included in the packet, which Easom said looked like a tent.

The pizza franchise launched 45 years ago in Hapeville and currently has 45 locations in Georgia.

The Chick-fil-A at 5055 Brookhaven Road off Eisenhower Parkway will expand its kitchen and drive-thru under a Conditional Use permit acquired at Monday’s hearing.

An additional 473 square feet will be added to the 4,227-square-foot building.

Plans submitted by Danielle Sheridan, of the architectural engineering firm Interplan, show a two-lane drive-thru and a larger “cockpit” for serving those customers in cars.

The renovation will decrease the number of seats available in the remodeled dining room.

New housing for downtown, Vineville, northeast Macon

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved plans for new loft apartments along Second and Mulberry streets near Carolyn Crayton Park.

P&Z commissioners also approved design modifications for 57 loft apartments in an existing warehouse in the 300 block of Seventh Street near Mulberry Street.

Plans call for a swimming pool, fire pit, barbecue grills in a picnic area, pickleball court, porch and decorative metal fence with brick piers.

“That’s a real nice amenity package,” Rogers noted in the pre-meeting.

P&Z first saw this proposal in April of 2022, when the property was rezoned from M-2 Heavy Industrial District to Central Business District to allow for construction of the apartment buildings.

The project is across lower Mulberry Street from the Macon Housing Authority’s new Central City Commons project. The partnership with Depaul USA will provide housing and a medical respite for those who become sick or injured while living on the streets.

The Commission also learned of a Macon native’s quest to build more housing in his old neighborhood near Northeast High School.

Loren Harris now lives in Englewood, New Jersey, but told P&Z that he and his daughter want to invest in the northeast Macon community by building on 2.26 acres at 1952 Clinton Road.

“Seems like this particular lot has been vacant since I was in high school, and it was an opportunity to bring in some affordable housing,” Harris told P&Z.

He is seeking rezoning from Single-Family Residential to Multi-Family Residential to allow several new dwellings including duplexes in a proposed residential complex. The undeveloped, wooded land will be divided into seven parcels for different styles of homes along Huntley Ridge Drive.

Harris plans to integrate the landscape into the building design that will be using Scandinavian minimalist principles, according to the application but the exact plans were not submitted.

Harris’ request has been deferred to the Jan. 8 hearing because P&Z commissioners Tim Jones and Gary Bechtel were not in attendance, so the request did not receive the required three-vote majority. Commissioner Kesia Stafford had to recuse herself because her family’s business, Stafford Builders & Consultants, will be building the development in phases.

Six three-bedroom apartments are going in an existing commercial office building on Riley Avenue off Vineville.

Off Vineville Avenue at 182 Riley Ave., P&Z rezoned 0.44 of an acre from C-2 General Commercial to PDR Planned Development Residential to allow for six multi-family dwellings.

Tracie Barksdale received Conditional Use approval for the half-dozen three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments being built in an existing 6,200-square-foot commercial building.

Other agenda items

  • 505 Second St. – Joe Adams granted permission to add exterior lighting to the Macon Exchange Condominium Association building at the corner of Second and Poplar streets.
  • 902 High St. – Architect Shannon Fickling’s plans approved for a covered landing on the back of Taylor Brown’s house. The project includes replacing windows, shutters, and asbestos siding, adding a new steppingstone walk, and landscaping at the 1905 home in the InTown Historic District.
  • 924 Highland Terrace – Applicant Jeff Thompson granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to combine three vacant lots to build a new single-family home. P&Z staff determined the two-story Hardie board and shake siding design harmonizes with the character of the downtown neighborhood between First Street and Orange Terrace.
  • 173 First St. – Design Review Board approved exterior modifications and new uniformly-sized windows for the old WDEN radio station building. Owner Bennie Coleman plans to renovate the building into apartments.
  • 250 Margaret Court – Conditional use granted for Sidney Eubanks III to bring in a manufactured home with decks on the one-acre parcel of land in an Agricultural District.
  • 1950 Millerfield Road, 1800 block of Jeffersonville Road – P&Z approved rezoning 1.27 acres at the corner of Millerfield and Jeffersonville roads from Single-Family Residential to General Commercial to bring the parcels into zoning conformity with neighboring properties that are being used for commercial purposes.
  • 635 Womack St. – Johntrell Jackson’s Conditional Use permit application to run a solar-powered indoor aquaponics farm and U-Haul rental business is deferred until Jan. 8. Jackson must present a legal notice giving him permission to park the U-Hauls on an adjacent lot he does not own.
  • 3900 Sardis Church Road – Mike’s Tree Services plans to build a 6,400-square-foot metal building for light maintenance and vehicle storage. No trees will be stored on the site. P&Z granted the Conditional Use permit for the project.
  • 3737 Napier Ave. – BSW Transport’s James Hamp sought and obtained a Conditional Use permit for his client to park, store, load and unload four tractor trailers and five rollback trucks on the 1.23-acre parcel. Hamp said the trucks will be servicing the BSW Auto Sales on the adjoining property. As a condition of approval, P&Z is requiring the owner to fence in the property to prevent vehicles from illegally parking in the right-of-way.
  • 3228 Pio Nono Ave. – Erica Brown granted Conditional Use approval to run an event space in her building, provided that those leasing the space do not linger past 10 p.m.
  • 3959 River Place Drive – Rezoning denied for about 11 acres that were to be used for a contractor’s office and heavy equipment storage. Engineer Steve Rowland sought a change from C-2 General Commercial to M-1 Heavy Industrial to allow vehicles to be stored outside. Commissioner Josh Rogers opposed the change. “It’s not the best location for that kind of operation. This is not a great place for an industrial zoning,” Rogers said.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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